Weston Homes and Columbia Threadneedle have now applied to the High Court asking for a statutory review under section 288 of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 with the aim of getting Robert Jenrick’s refusal of the scheme overturned in the Royal Courts of Justice.
If permission to proceed is granted by the court the case will be considered at a full hearing, which is likely to take place in the spring or summer of 2021.
Developers Weston Homes and Columbia Threadneedle argued that the secretary of state acted unlawfully in blocking their plans – a decision taken largely on heritage grounds.
In 2018 Norwich City Council planning committee of voted in favour of the proposed scheme and resolved to grant planning permission. The proposals were then called in by the secretary of state. A public inquiry was held, resulting in the planning inspector recommending that planning permission should be granted.
Among those opposing Weston's Anglia Square scheme was Historic England, which said that it would "radically disrupt the character of the cityscape".
Despite the planning inspector recommending approval, Robert Jenrick sided with the opponents and decided to refuse permission, saying that demolishing the 1960s-built Anglia Square shopping centre and replacing it with a 20-storey block of flats, a hotel, cinema and new shops "did not protect and enhance the heritage assets of the city".
Bob Weston, chairman & chief executive of Weston Homes, said: “Having taken legal advice at the highest level Weston Homes and Columbia Threadneedle have decided that we should take High Court action and seek to get Robert Jenrick’s decision overturned. At a time of extreme economic hardship and with Norwich on the edge of a deep recession the secretary of state chose to refuse a massive investment opportunity for the city. His decision flies in the face of government policy on housing delivery and encouraging brownfield-land regeneration in order to protect the greenbelt.”
He added: “Alan Waters, the leader of Norwich City Council, has gone on record and said that Robert Jenrick has overturned local democracy and an extensive public inquiry. The decision also seriously jeopardises the £15m of government Housing Infrastructure Fund (HIF) money already allocated to accelerate the development of the site. The government is not being co-ordinated, just as one body offers one of the highest levels of HIF funding in the country, the secretary of state turns away the scheme being offered funding.”